Eevee reviewer, Robert Wood gives his verdict on the latest stage spectacle by Russian performance artist, Slava Polunin.
In Neil Gaiman’s Sandman the Lord of Dreams owns a library made up entirely of impossible works: the complete Kubla Khan that Coleridge would have written if he wasn’t interrupted, the second half of Dickens’ unfinished whodunit The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the Napoleon movie that could have been Kubrick’s masterwork. Slava’s Snowshow must have come from those shelves, the great work of a society where clowns reign supreme. It’s an ethereal, eccentric, spell-binding experience that’s suitable for everyone aged eight and up on the understanding that everyone will be transformed into an eight year old within the first ten minutes anyway.
Written by National Artist of Russia Vyacheslav Ivanovich ‘Slava’ Polunin, the multi-award winning show has been performed in 30 countries and briefly returns to the UK this autumn for what will certainly be a sell-out tour. The show uses the clown Slava as a focal point, his adventures in the snow constituting a loose narrative around which spectacular set pieces are constructed. For those put off by the presence of clowns it has to be noted that the circus tent, bucket-full-of-glitter brigade compare to the Snowshow’s crew like your local amateur football team compares to front row seats at the 1966 World Cup. Clowning as a sincere art form isn’t something we’re familiar with and so Slava’s Snowshow, presenting an almost perfect example of the performance art, seems to come from nowhere. It’s like watching an Olympic class performance of a sport you’ve only just discovered and the attendant sense of wonder is something everyone should experience. Scenes spill from the stage and the audience is involved without anyone being singled out, with every scene feeling impossible to top until halfway through the next one. It’s no surprise Slava’s Snowshow is a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience winner.
The closest comparable experience is the famous rides at Universal Studies but even then the Snowshow packs more punch.
Adults will enjoy a wry, sophisticated work of art and children will remain fascinated long after the show is finished. If you want your kids to appreciate that theatre has something to offer this is the show they need to see (and will try hopelessly to describe in the playground the next day.) That’s not to say enjoying yourself is dependent on taking children, or even taking anyone; the show is so inclusive and encouraging that the rest of the audience feels like a (huge) group of friends.
Spoiling any of the awe inspiring scenes that make up the show would be unforgiveable, but the moment when Slava faces a blizzard to Carl Orff’s O Fortuna (aka the X-Factor music) is a contender for the best thing ever done on stage. The otherworldly performance is always answerable to a sense of fun, culminating in a finale which will leave you unwilling to leave the theatre. If you’re curious but not sold you can find clips of the Snowshow online but if at all possible you should avoid them; there are some things so good that once they’re done you envy your past self the ability to see them for the first time.
Slava’s Snowshow is at the Bradford Alhambra (October 23-27) and the Sheffield Lyceum (November 20-24) with tickets ranging from £14.50-£30.50 and you should go buy some right now.
Check out more of Robert’s writing here – http://absentapologies.blogspot.co.uk/